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Special Issue "The Governance of Social Innovation for a Sustainable Economy: Requirements, Actors and Approaches"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 December 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Klaus Jacob
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Interests: Governance; innovation for Sustainable Development; transformation research

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Achieving a sustainable economy is both a challenge and an opportunity for business, politics, and society as a whole. To date, technologies and improvements in efficiency have been considered key to reducing emissions and resource depletion. Accordingly, innovation policies are of central importance in governance approaches for sustainable development. However, there are many indications that technological fixes will not be sufficient.

Therefore, social innovations are expected to complement technological innovations. Business models have developed with the aim of replacing unsustainable social practices by fostering and commercializing social innovations.

In order to support a more systematic uptake and the broader diffusion of social innovations, it is necessary to have supporting governance mechanisms in place. These differ from governance approaches for other innovations: they require different innovation policies, infrastructures, networks, etc. At the same time, different providers of governance are conceivable (governments, private business, networks). However, so far there is little knowledge regarding what governance arrangements for social innovation could look like.

To gather findings in this regard, we invite you to submit contributions addressing the following research questions:

  • Frameworks for the governance of social innovation: What are governance approaches for social innovation? How do they differ from current approaches for governing processes of innovation? Who are the providers of governance functions?
  • Evaluation of social innovations and their contribution to a sustainable economy: How do social innovations contribute to a sustainable economy? How could and what framework conditions would be necessary for their upscaling and broader diffusion to further increase their impact?
  • Case studies of social innovation: What are framework conditions, governance approaches and policy instruments for fostering the development and diffusion of cases of social innovations, that help analyze theoretical frameworks?

Dr. Klaus Jacob
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Social Innovation
  • Innovation Policy
  • System of Innovation
  • Governance for Sustainable Development
  • Sustainable Economy
  • Transformation

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Article
Testing a Framework to Co-Construct Social Innovation Actions: Insights from Seven Marginalized Rural Areas
Sustainability 2020, 12(4), 1441; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12041441 - 15 Feb 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2464
Abstract
Innovation actions within European Horizon 2020 (H2020) projects aim at testing research results in practice. When supporting social innovations in rural areas, such testing requires the alignment of several rural actors in order to entail behavioral changes beyond the individual level. Recently, social [...] Read more.
Innovation actions within European Horizon 2020 (H2020) projects aim at testing research results in practice. When supporting social innovations in rural areas, such testing requires the alignment of several rural actors in order to entail behavioral changes beyond the individual level. Recently, social innovation has been recognized as an important tool for rural areas, developing new solutions to respond to wicked problems for improving local living conditions at the grassroots level. In this study, we analyzed the use of an operational framework to support the early governance of social innovation actions. This framework was applied to co-construct seven innovation actions across Europe and the Mediterranean basin applied to forestry, agriculture, and rural development. Our results showed that supporting social innovators and local actors at the early stage of social innovation processes is key for efficiently addressing and tackling challenges and opportunities. Additionally, we showed that the process of defining a social innovation is complex and requires recursive engagement, which might lead to evolution through time, especially in the first phases of the process. Lastly, conducting the feasibility assessment enabled strategic thinking on crucial dimensions for designing a promising social innovation action, such as social networks management, financial sustainability, and know-how. Such findings helped us to draw general lessons for the development and governance of social innovation actions in rural areas, potentially applicable to any rural sector. Full article
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Article
Governance of Social Innovation in Forestry
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 1065; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12031065 - 03 Feb 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1657 | Correction
Abstract
Over the last decade, the term social innovation has received increased attention as a potential solution to address complex global social problems and to add collective values to society. The forest sector has great potential for fostering employment, community development and reducing increased [...] Read more.
Over the last decade, the term social innovation has received increased attention as a potential solution to address complex global social problems and to add collective values to society. The forest sector has great potential for fostering employment, community development and reducing increased emigration from rural to urban areas. This potential is not always realised, especially in economically weak and remote rural areas. Hence, this paper tackles the question of how social innovations in forestry are able to succeed under adverse circumstances and contribute to respond to some of the before mentioned challenges? To answer this question, we first identified four very different cases across Europe that are compatible with the criteria of social innovation. Proceeding from this starting point, comparative research was undertaken with the aim to identify the cases´ specific features and key criteria for success. In the cases considered, it is evident that the sheer determination and voluntary investment of time and effort by key individuals, who were convinced of the value of the idea for the community, provided indispensable impetus to all four social innovations. In drawing its conclusions, this paper highlights the principal areas that need consideration and that hence have implications when developing supportive policies. Furthermore, we provide some insight into future research topics that would allow us to better understand the positive impacts of social innovation in the forest-based sector. Full article
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Article
Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives as Social Innovation for Governance and Practice: A Review of Responsible Mining Initiatives
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 236; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010236 - 27 Dec 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1721
Abstract
Mining mineral resources has been found to be an ambiguous way of achieving sustainable development. It can spark the economic development of poor regions, but at the same time it is associated with severe sustainability issues, particularly in areas with governance deficits. Recent [...] Read more.
Mining mineral resources has been found to be an ambiguous way of achieving sustainable development. It can spark the economic development of poor regions, but at the same time it is associated with severe sustainability issues, particularly in areas with governance deficits. Recent developments have spurred a vibrant debate on how to achieve the development opportunities while minimizing the sustainability impacts. As a result, voluntary multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSI) originated with differing foci, aims, and organizational designs. Such MSIs for responsible mining can be interpreted as a social innovation from two perspectives: (1) stakeholder groups cooperate to complement, concretize, initiate, and prepare, but also compete with other forms of governance and possibly replace them; (2) the MSIs support implementing responsible mining in practice. A structured review of 20 MSIs’ documents along an analytical framework covering governance, change in practice, and diffusion shows that the two roles of MSIs can hardly be separated, as the change in practice is enabled via a change in governance. Moreover, the MSIs are found to be a valuable complement to traditional governance of responsible mining, as they transcend national borders, allow for the inclusion of informal miners into professionalization, and offer support to companies to enhance their sustainability performance. Nevertheless, the MSIs are voluntary and relatively young. This limits their power and requires further research for which six avenues are identified in this paper. Full article
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Article
How a Transformation towards Sustainable Community Catering Can Succeed
Sustainability 2020, 12(1), 101; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12010101 - 21 Dec 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1429
Abstract
Community catering or to use another common term especially in the American literature institutional foodservice plays a central role in changing our food system towards sustainability. Community catering establishments can bring about changes in this context at various levels. Hence, in the context [...] Read more.
Community catering or to use another common term especially in the American literature institutional foodservice plays a central role in changing our food system towards sustainability. Community catering establishments can bring about changes in this context at various levels. Hence, in the context of menu planning, they have a direct influence on the level of meat consumption. Indirectly, however, they can also support changes in eating habits by offering the guest an equally attractive alternative, thus giving him or her a sense of how tasty a low-meat cuisine can be. On the basis of this experience, the consumer may possibly change in turn his or her own purchasing behavior and menu planning at home. With the increasing importance of catering for day-care centers and schools, community catering also has a considerable influence on the nutritional status as well as on the development of people’s individual diet and the later eating habits of young people. By understanding socio-technical systems as embedded in ecological systems this paper takes a systemic view on innovations in transformation domains as the objects of desire for governance towards sustainability. The framework developed in the context of the BMBF-funded research project “Governance model for socio-ecological transformation processes in practice: development and testing in three areas of application” known by its acronym TRAFO 3.0 was applied to examine innovative approaches and actors in community catering and their contributions to more sustainable food systems. A number of studies show that a very large environmental relief potential can be achieved by reducing the quantity of meat and other animal products offered. However, the concrete implementation of this goal is associated with a multitude of challenges, since meat-containing meals are an important part of German food culture. How the transformation towards meals with fewer animal products in German community catering can succeed is an important question in the context of the transformation to sustainable food systems. To answer this question, we analyzed the status quo of the socio-technical system of German community catering using a developed governance model. One of the central results was that community catering stakeholders who have successfully reduced their offer of animal products died fundamental changes in meal planning. Cooks had to “reinvent” meals completely to be successful. Full article
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Article
Social Innovation to Sustain Rural Communities: Overcoming Institutional Challenges in Serbia
Sustainability 2019, 11(24), 7248; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11247248 - 17 Dec 2019
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 1842
Abstract
Responding to a number of longstanding challenges such as poverty, wide-ranging inequalities, environmental problems, and migration, requires new and creative responses that are often not provided by traditional governments. Social innovations can offer socio-ecological and economic solutions by introducing new practices that reduce [...] Read more.
Responding to a number of longstanding challenges such as poverty, wide-ranging inequalities, environmental problems, and migration, requires new and creative responses that are often not provided by traditional governments. Social innovations can offer socio-ecological and economic solutions by introducing new practices that reduce social inequalities, disproportionate resource use and foster sustainable development. Understanding the role of social innovations is especially complicated in unstable institutional environments, e.g. in developing countries and countries in transition. This paper analyses nine social innovations in rural areas in Serbia, based on in-depth interviews and document analysis. This analysis reveals factors that facilitate or constrain social innovations whilst simultaneously identifying related formal and informal institutional voids, for example, poor law enforcement, a lack of adequate infrastructure, lack of trust, as well as norms and values that bolster patriarchal systems. The results that emerged from this research show that social innovations are operating in spite of these challenges and are facilitating improvements in a number of the aforementioned challenging areas. Some innovators engage in social entrepreneurship activities because of subsistence-oriented goals, while others follow idealistic or life-style oriented goals, thus creating new social values. Moving beyond these observations, this paper also identifies means to overcome institutional voids, such as creation of context-specific organisational structures, improved legal frameworks, and innovative financial mechanisms. Full article
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Article
“Doing” Sustainability Assessment in Different Consumption and Production Contexts—Lessons from Case Study Comparison
Sustainability 2019, 11(24), 7041; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11247041 - 09 Dec 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1128
Abstract
Sustainability as a guiding idea for societal and economic development causes a growing need for reliable sustainability assessments (SAs). In response, a plethora of increasingly sophisticated, standardizAed, and specialized approaches have emerged. However, little attention has been paid to how applications of SAs [...] Read more.
Sustainability as a guiding idea for societal and economic development causes a growing need for reliable sustainability assessments (SAs). In response, a plethora of increasingly sophisticated, standardizAed, and specialized approaches have emerged. However, little attention has been paid to how applications of SAs in different contexts navigate the challenges of selecting and customizing SA approaches for their research purposes. This paper provides an exploration of the context-specific conditions of SA through a case study of three research projects. Each case study explores the different approaches, methodologies, as well as difficulties and similarities that researchers face in “doing” SA based on the research question “What are common challenges that researchers are facing in using SA approaches?” Our case study comparison follows a most different approach for covering a wide range of SA applications and is structured along with three key challenges of doing SA: (i) Deliberation, learning and assessment; (ii) normative assessment principles; (iii) feasibility, especially regarding data quality/availability. Above all, the comparative case study underlines the role and importance of reflexivity and context: We argue that a more explicit and transparent discussion of these challenges could contribute to greater awareness, and thus, to improving the ability of researchers to transparently modify and customize generic SA methodologies to their research contexts. Our findings can help researchers to more critically appraise the differences between SA approaches, as well as their normative assumptions, and guide them to assemble their SA methodology in a reflexive and case-sensitive way. Full article
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Article
Pioneers’ Insights into Governing Social Innovation for Sustainable Anti-Consumption
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6663; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236663 - 25 Nov 2019
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1217
Abstract
Transcending the conventional debate around efficiency in sustainable consumption, anti-consumption patterns leading to decreased levels of material consumption have been gaining importance. Change agents are crucial for the promotion of such patterns, so there may be lessons for governance interventions that can be [...] Read more.
Transcending the conventional debate around efficiency in sustainable consumption, anti-consumption patterns leading to decreased levels of material consumption have been gaining importance. Change agents are crucial for the promotion of such patterns, so there may be lessons for governance interventions that can be learnt from the every-day experiences of those who actively implement and promote sustainability in the field of anti-consumption. Eighteen social innovation pioneers, who engage in and diffuse practices of voluntary simplicity and collaborative consumption as sustainable options of anti-consumption share their knowledge and personal insights in expert interviews for this research. Our qualitative content analysis reveals drivers, barriers, and governance strategies to strengthen anti-consumption patterns, which are negotiated between the market, the state, and civil society. Recommendations derived from the interviews concern entrepreneurship, municipal infrastructures in support of local grassroots projects, regulative policy measures, more positive communication to strengthen the visibility of initiatives and emphasize individual benefits, establishing a sense of community, anti-consumer activism, and education. We argue for complementary action between top-down strategies, bottom-up initiatives, corporate activities, and consumer behavior. The results are valuable to researchers, activists, marketers, and policymakers who seek to enhance their understanding of materially reduced consumption patterns based on the real-life experiences of active pioneers in the field. Full article
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Article
Approaches to Reduce Food Losses in German Fruit and Vegetable Production
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6576; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236576 - 21 Nov 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1072
Abstract
Food losses occur in all agricultural value chains, but are especially high in the fruit and vegetable sector. This study quantifies losses of selected fruits (strawberries, apples) and vegetables (lettuce, carrots), identifies the main reasons for food losses, and assesses effective measures for [...] Read more.
Food losses occur in all agricultural value chains, but are especially high in the fruit and vegetable sector. This study quantifies losses of selected fruits (strawberries, apples) and vegetables (lettuce, carrots), identifies the main reasons for food losses, and assesses effective measures for the reduction of these losses. Data were collected in structured interviews with value chain actors from production to food retail and validated in regional expert workshops. Results show that in average years, about 25% of the analysed vegetables are lost at farm level. The range of fruit losses differs widely, from 15% to 20% for strawberries and only 6% to 16% for apples. Weather is a major factor for crop losses, since it can strongly affect product appearance and hence marketability in the food retail sector. There is a lack of alternative market channels for products, which do not meet the high-quality standards for fresh products in the retail sector. Effective measures to reduce food losses are protected cultivation in greenhouses or under hail nets, continuous cooling systems, improved packaging and training of staff. More cooperation and coordination between producers, wholesalers and retailers could also increase the share of marketable products. Full article
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Article
Social Acceptability of More Sustainable Alternatives in Clothing Consumption
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6194; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11226194 - 06 Nov 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1381
Abstract
The rapidly growing demand for clothing in connection with the resource requirements and the emissions along the textile chain as well as the prevailing working conditions in the textile industry cause serious environmental and social problems. The question is asked, whether changes in [...] Read more.
The rapidly growing demand for clothing in connection with the resource requirements and the emissions along the textile chain as well as the prevailing working conditions in the textile industry cause serious environmental and social problems. The question is asked, whether changes in consumption towards more sustainably produced clothing and, finally, a reduction of clothing consumption are achievable against the background of the existing consumption-related patterns of attitudes and behaviors. A representative survey was conducted in Germany (N = 2000) to tackle the consumer-related aspects of this question. The characteristics of consumption-related attitudes in the different population segments were determined. Factors were identified that affect the buying and use of clothes as well as the efficiency, consistency, and sufficiency supporting consumption alternatives. The results show that some preconditions for a broader diffusion of more sustainable alternatives in clothing consumption are given in Germany, such as a widespread general sustainability and problem awareness. In some population segments, social norms supporting more efficiency and consistency in the clothing sector are effective, and social and ecological buying criteria have a relatively high importance. However, there are also strong attitudinal obstacles, particularly regarding the restriction of clothing consumption. Full article
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Article
Stories that Change Our World? Narratives of the Sustainable Economy
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 6163; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11216163 - 04 Nov 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1184
Abstract
Narratives are shaping our understanding of the world. They convey values and norms and point to desirable future developments. In this way, they justify and legitimize political actions and social practices. Once a narrative has emerged and this world view is supported by [...] Read more.
Narratives are shaping our understanding of the world. They convey values and norms and point to desirable future developments. In this way, they justify and legitimize political actions and social practices. Once a narrative has emerged and this world view is supported by broad societal groups, narratives can provide powerful momentum to trigger innovation and changes in the course of action. Narratives, however, are not necessarily based on evidence and precise categories, but can instead be vague and ambiguous in order to be acceptable and attractive to different actors. However, the more open and inclusive a narrative is, the less impact can be expected. We investigate whether there is a shared narrative in research for the sustainable economy and how this can be evaluated in terms of its potential societal impact. The paper carves out the visions for the future that have been underlying the research projects conducted within the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funding programme “The Sustainable Economy”. It then analyzes whether these visions are compatible with narratives dominating societal discourse on the sustainable economy, and concludes how the use of visions and narratives in research can contribute to fostering societal transformations. Full article

Review

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Review
Living Labs for Rural Areas: Contextualization of Living Lab Frameworks, Concepts and Practices
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3797; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143797 - 11 Jul 2019
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 4373
Abstract
Living Labs are spaces for innovative and participative research, development and activities that use multidisciplinary approaches and promote the co-creation paradigm. Our specific interest lies in exploring the value of the Living Lab concept for creating environments that enable equal opportunities for people [...] Read more.
Living Labs are spaces for innovative and participative research, development and activities that use multidisciplinary approaches and promote the co-creation paradigm. Our specific interest lies in exploring the value of the Living Lab concept for creating environments that enable equal opportunities for people living in rural and urban areas, and for making rural areas attractive places to live. Moreover, through the existing practices and research results available, Living Labs are seen as one of the important building blocks of smart rural development and an important step towards establishing a Smart Village environment. Living Labs are a valuable player in enhancing circular economy, digital transformation, local self-sufficiency and other elements of sustainable living. The main aim of this paper is therefore to put Living Labs in the context of rural areas and evaluate their possible contributions for sustainable rural development. This paper argues that the element of community and social change should be considered as a key element in enabling sustainable living. Full article
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Other

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Correction
Correction: Ludvig, A.; et al. Governance of Social Innovation in Forestry. Sustainability 2020, 12, 1065
Sustainability 2020, 12(14), 5767; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12145767 - 17 Jul 2020
Viewed by 638
Abstract
Replacing the email of the fifth author Wilding Maria [...] Full article
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